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Half of Cobb students surveyed want to return to classroom

By Kristal Dixon, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution #atlanta-ga

Cobb County School District officials report that some 52,000 households — representing 49% of parents — want their students to return to classroom teaching for the rest of the first semester.

That’s according to results of a survey the district released Monday. The survey, which closed Sept. 20, also found about 35%, or roughly 37,000 households, have said they want their students to keep learning from home for the remainder of 2020, the Cobb County School District said in a statement. About 16% or 18,000 have not responded to the survey and must contact their schools to inform them of their choice.

Cobb County schools, Georgia’s second largest school district with about 112,000 students, began the academic year Aug. 17 with virtual-only classes. The district will begin the first phase of its reopening plan next month.

The district will reopen classes on Oct. 5 to students in kindergarten through fifth grade. Some special education classes for kindergarten through 12th grade students will also have an in-person option in the first phase of the reopening. Sixth through eighth grades are scheduled to start Oct. 19 and high school students are set to go back Nov. 5.

The school district said students and families will have a chance to make their choice for the second semester in December.

Cobb County schools has released a video showcasing what the classroom environment will be like for in-person and remote students. Teachers will be answering questions from both groups of students simultaneously and using technology so they don’t have to teach lessons twice, the district said in a press release.

Superintendent Chris Ragsdale told Cobb school board members Thursday that teachers will have laptops with cameras and equip themselves with Bluetooth microphones so students at home can see and hear them.

“This year will be technology-centric,” Ragsdale said in the news release. “This is the only way we can minimize disruptions if a school or a class needs to quarantine.”

Ragsdale added that some schools may have 80 percent of their students return for in-person learning and others may only have 20 percent. Either way, the superintendent said students will be using devices and the Cobb Teaching and Learning System, its virtual learning platform, “to some degree.”

Students and staff will be required to wear masks on buses and in buildings, including when they are in classes.

In Cobb County, the number of cases per 100,000 people has recently dropped below 200, a threshold Ragsdale said he wanted to see before reopening classrooms. As of Monday, the Georgia Department of Public Health reports the number of COVID-19 cases in Cobb County for the past two weeks have dropped to 151 per 100,000 people.